— September 26, 2018
It’s easy to fall into bad habits when you’re busy. For many busy entrepreneurs, putting out fires is the only way to keep moving forward. If you feel like you and your team are just barely holding it all together, consider these seven time-saving secrets that are sure to help your business thrive while you maintain a better work-life balance.
Create a Knockout List
To-do lists are nothing new, but a knockout list is a new twist on the idea. Rather than list every single thing you need to accomplish for the foreseeable future, hone in on the most important tasks that must be accomplished before the day is through. Pick only a handful of clear, realistic goals and commit to knocking them out before you head home for the night. To really cement these goals as both realistic and doable, write them out on an index card or Post-It note. Tearing it up once you’ve finished the task will feel incredibly satisfying.
While multitasking might feel super productive, studies have shown that our brains are actually terrible at performing two tasks at once. Rather than seamlessly completing multiple chores, you’re likely just performing both tasks poorly. Instead of trying to achieve the impossible, focus instead on single-tasking. The idea isn’t a new one, but narrowing your attention to just one project at a time is coming back in style.
Having trouble setting down your smartphone long enough to truly get focused? Try the Pomodoro Method on for size. Break your to-do list down into 25 minute intervals. Set an alarm on your phone for that time and then hold yourself to your goal of working solely on one project for those 25 minutes. After the alarm sounds, treat yourself to a cup of coffee, walk to the water cooler or five minutes to check out the latest headlines. Then cycle through the next interval.
We all sit in meetings that could have been whittled down to a few minutes but drag on endlessly instead. Ditch inefficient meetings and hold your team to a standard of meetings that last no longer than 20 minutes. While there may be occasions when a longer meeting might be necessary, a cap on the average meeting runtime can help ensure there’s an urgency to the conversation. Want to really minimize a meeting’s length? Try holding stand-up meetings. Folks will have extra impetus to keep things short when they’re ready to take a load off their feet.
Email has a way of sucking hours out of our days. Whether you’re fielding incoming messages from clients, checking in with contractors or simply managing your in-house team from your keyboard, answering emails can really cut into your productivity. To mitigate the impact, try limiting the time you spend on email to an hour or so each morning. While that’s not to say you’ll never respond to a message in the afternoon, sectioning of a dedicated portion of each day just for email is a great way to keep on top of your seemingly endless inbox while still having time to focus on your other big projects.
Just Say No
When colleagues and clients are asking a million things from you, it can be difficult to put your foot down and defend your free time. While most entrepreneurs are eager to roll up their sleeves and get to work, they’re also protective of the hours in their day. While delegation can be tough, saying no can be downright impossible. Like anything else, though, practice makes perfect. Start by turning down small requests and soon enough you’ll be working only on the projects you’re most excited about!
Delegate Work to a Virtual Receptionist
For many busy entrepreneurs, it’s hard to envision a world where the phone isn’t constantly interrupting meetings and strategy sessions. However, for a startup, every call is an opportunity. So do you ignore opportunity or let the phone interrupt your day every time it rings? Savvy entrepreneurs don’t let either happen. Virtual receptionists have become more and more common amongst busy professionals. Not only are virtual receptionist services far more cost-effective than hiring in-house employees, but they can also help you professionally brand your phones, provide great customer service, schedule appointments, screen/transfer calls, and even help you grow your business. Entrepreneurs who have partnered with a virtual receptionist love how much time they get back in their day to focus on all their important tasks.
Embrace the Two Minute Rule
Procrastination gets the best of all of us at one point or another, and the two-minute rule aims to circumvent our predilection for putting things off. It makes beginning tasks so simple that you just can’t say no. The concept is simple: if a task takes two minutes or less, go ahead and do it right now. Don’t put it off until after lunch or schedule it to be done by the end of the week. Instead, just pull the trigger and get it done now.
The results of the two-minute rule won’t be anything to write home about. It’s important not because of the output, but because of the system it establishes. By accomplishing little tasks each day, you build momentum to check larger projects off your list. Filing a quick report now could lead to you finishing up a more important task later.
Entrepreneurs are busy, yes, but the most successful ones use these tactics and others like them to ensure they can make the most of their days. Give one, a couple, or all of these suggestions a shot to see how much time you are able to reinvest in your business.